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Four-Star Films : 'Larks on a String'

July 10, 1994|Kevin Thomas

Banned for 20 years, Jiri Menzel's wry and lovely 1969 film is one of the most poignant mementos of the Prague Spring, that brief flowering of the arts in Czechoslovakia in the late '60s trampled by Soviet tanks. Time, happily, has only made the picture seem better, underlining Menzel's formidable gifts as a filmmaker: his lyricism, subtlety, compassion, humor and courage. Set in the Stalinist early '50s, it stars Menzel's "Closely Watched Trains" star Vaclav Neckar as a cook whose refusal to work on the Sabbath gets him branded as a bourgeois dissident and ordered to perform "voluntary" labor compacting scrap metal in a junkyard. This sounds hardly the setting for laughter and joy, yet Menzel at every turn zestfully satirizes the heavy-handed, doctrinaire Communist Party line. For his irreverence Menzel was unable to make a film for the next five years, and has regained a reasonable measure of his own freedom of expression only in the last decade (Bravo Thursday at 6 and 11 p.m.).

Other four-star films this week:

The Lady Eve AMC, Sunday, 6 and 9:30 p.m.; Monday, 10 a.m.

The Lavender Hill Mob Bravo, Monday, 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.

East of Eden, Lifetime, Monday, 4 p.m.

Henry V (1945), Bravo, Tuesday, 2 and 7:30 p.m.

The Court Jester AMC, Thursday, 2 p.m.

Stage Door AMC, Saturday, 3 p.m.

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